Dilithium Crystals At The Vancouver PlanetariumFriday, July 27, 2012
|Lauren Stewart at the Vancouver Planetarium|
I sat down on the heather. Overhead obscurity was now in full retreat. In its rear the freed population of the sky sprang out of hiding, star by star.
On every side of the shadowy hills or the guessed, featureless sea extended beyond sight. But the hawk-flight of imagination followed them as they curved downward below the horizon. I perceived that I was on a little round grain of rock and metal, filmed with water and with air, whirling in sunlight and darkness. And on the skin of that little grain all the swarms of men, generation by generation, had lived in labour and blindness, with intermittent joy and intermittent lucidity of spirit. And all their history, with its folk-wanderings, its empires, its philosophies, its proud sciences, its social revolutions, its increasing hunger for community, was but a flicker in one day of the lives of stars.
If one could know whether among that glittering host there were here and there other spirit-inhabited grains of rock and metal, whether man’s blundering search for wisdom and love was a sole and insignificant tremor, or part of the universal movement!
Star Maker, Olaf Stapledon , 1937As a young boy, I was 8, before any moon landings where on the space horizon I had seen with my parents in a premiere in Buenos Aires Irving Pichel’s film Destination Moon. The film set me on a course of eventually reading every science fiction book I could fin in my mid teens to my early youth.
It was in 1968 that Rosemary and I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey at the Cine Latino in Mexico City. It was still our honeymoon. I was dazzled by the film. I had read Arthur C. Clarke’s short story The Sentinel years before. It is only of late that I find out that another of my favourite science fiction writers (a bit in a decline because of his right wing views) Robert Heinlein had written the screen play for Destination Moon.
The Kubrick film, with its dazzling but, by our present standards, restrained special effects has been in me ever since. I do remember seeing Star Wars at the Stanley with my two daughters and I, too was awed by the special effects but this was really a space cowboys sort of thing. It was entertaining but I had no stomach for pseudo spiritualism and “the force”. Not even Alec Guinness could save the film from what it really was for me, space schlock.
In Mexico I had been a fan of La Odisea del Espacio. This was a dubbed-into-Spanish Star Trek. I loved all the characters, who in later years when we came to Vancouver I realized that they had voices very close to their real ones in English.
The special effects in La Odisea del Espacio were laughable. People falling in the corridors of the Enterprise during a Klingon attack or the many people shuffling past a window in an episode about an overpopulated planet were simple and not quite adequate.
But Star Trek was never about special effects or about rockets zooming up. For me Star Trek was the conflict between the body, heart and mind which is what we humans are all about. The mind, logic supreme, was Spock; the body with all its impulse and rashness was Kirk. The most important man on board the Enterprise was neither of them but the man who was the go-between, the man who intervened for balance, Doctor Leonard McCoy. Star Trek was a constant development of Doctor McCoy as the buffer between two salient qualities of humans that sometimes seem to be seen at odds.
To my surprise and confusion I could not understand, in 1975 when we arrived in Vancouver why Captain Kirk was promoting bacon and fruit in a series of Super-Valu TV ads. It was then that I found out that Canada had more than Mounties and totem poles to offer to the world.
I have a personal theory that another reason for the success of the original Star Trek, is that its hero, Captain Kirk played by William Shatner, did not take himself all that seriously. There was a tongue firmly in check to be noticed. Patrick Stewart never seemed to understand that the Captain of the Enterprise was not Hamlet, or Henry V. For me The Next Generation is simply pseudo-sophisticated space schlock.
It was with all that in my head that my son-in-law Bruce Stewart, my daughter Hilary Stewart and their youngest daughter Lauren Elizabeth (10) and I went to the projection of Star Trek 2009 tonight Friday at the Vancouver Planetarium. I had not seen it before and I was marvellously and pleasantly surprised that the spirit of the original Star Trek was still there.
I also noted that Lauren had that wowness I her face at having seen something that pushed her imagination. The only bitter part of the experience is that my older granddaughter, Rebecca 14 dislikes Star Trek and prefers anything to do with Star Wars. She did not come with us and opted for staying at home.
I believe that the difference in approach here is those who are attracted by the special effects of Batman, and other super heroes and those who appreciate films with a more speculative approach.
We can realize with almost absolute certainty that dilithium crystals will never ever push us beyond the speed of light or that the likelihood of finding a space worm hole to take us from here to there in a wink will not happen ever or at the very least in our present lifetime. We will be lucky to send an expedition to Mars. But we will not escape the gravitational pull of our solar system. We are stuck on Stapledon’s grain of sand. But like Stapeldon’s unnamed dreamer we can wonder the stars with our imagination and special effects be damned.
The next space oriented film at the planetarium, August 10, 8 pm is The Right Stuff.